The time has come, Philadelphia: The Rail Park is opening.
On Thursday, June 14, a quarter-mile stretch of new urban greenspace opens to the public where the Reading Railroad once ran.
Thereafter, the awesome new public space welcomes visitors daily into the free and open-to-everyone park.
RAIL PARK FAST FACTS
- The first complete phase of the Rail Park opens on Thursday, June 14.
- The section curves southeast from Broad and Noble streets to 11th and Callowhill streets.
- Visitors can enjoy greenery, seating, public art and elevated city views.
- Entry to the Rail Park is free, with entrances at Broad and Noble streets, 13th and Noble streets and Callowhill Street between 11th and 12th streets.
Anticipation for Philly’s new elevated park and recreational pathway has steadily built since the partnership was formed in 2010 between the community-based Friends of the Rail Park Center City District — alongside the city’s Commerce Department and the Department of Parks & Recreation — who evaluated the viability of the park, raised funds and managed the building of the space.
Now, Phase I is complete and visitors can traverse the first piece of the park.
What to Expect
A quarter-mile section of the city’s expansive planned overhead greenway welcomes visitors to a spacious park with trees, plants and places to relax and take in the views.
The design of the park, lead by Studio Bryan Hanes, maintains an industrial feel with steel platforms, benches and guardrails. A simple, meandering pathway leads visitors through rustic plantings and over four large wooden platforms, culminating with a group of huge swings (yup, swing away!).
Also, look for a stunning metalwork representation of the railway’s history designed and fabricated by Cloud Gehshan and an art project, Dawn Chorus, by Brent Wahl and Laynie Browne.
Of course, as a public space, entry to the Rail Park is completely free.
The Entrances & Neighborhood
Phase I’s footprint stretches from Broad and Noble streets, jumps up to the Reading Viaduct overhead and ends above the 1100 block of Callowhill Street.
To access the Rail Park, go to one of the three entrances at Broad and Noble streets, 13th and Noble streets and Callowhill Street between 11th and 12th streets. Sections beyond the quarter-mile Phase I of the Rail Park are not yet open to the public.
A stylish-yet-still-transforming neighborhood, Callowhill has been dubbed the “Loft District” by real estate developers and “The Eraser ’Hood” by locals referencing the once-dark landscape that inspired former resident David Lynch’s cult classic Eraserhead. Really, the neighborhood’s reality is somewhere in between these two extremes, with both hip spaces occupied by young professionals and funky clubs populated by an edgy urban crowd.
The Rail Park also connects to Philadelphia’s vibrant Chinatown, a neighborhood filled with restaurants and businesses that represent Hong Kong, Cantonese, Fujianese, Northern Sichuan and Taiwanese cultures, as well as a sprinkling of Korean, Thai, Malaysian, Burmese, Vietnamese and American.
For info on the Callowhill neighborhood, where to eat in the neighborhood and more, check out a guide to the area on visitphilly.com.
For more on Philly’s Chinatown, check out a guide to that neighborhood right here.
The History & Development
Inspired by game-changing elevated parks like the High Line in New York and Promenade Plantée in Paris, Center City District and the neighborhood organization that’s now known as Friends of the Rail Park, originally spearheaded by Sarah McEneaney and John Struble, have worked to bring the Rail Park dream to fruition.
Beginning in 2010, Center City District commissioned an environmental and feasibility analysis, commissioned design and engineering from Studio Bryan Hanes and Urban Engineers (with the city’s Commerce Department and the Department of Parks & Recreation) and hosted neighborhood meetings and online surveys. Contributions from the William Penn Foundation and Poor Richard’s Charitable Trust also aided in the park’s creation. Additionally, a wide range of public, private and corporate funders and donors helped bring this urban park to life.
To learn more about the history of this nearly 10-year and multi-phase project, check out Center City District’s overview.
For more on Friends of the Rail Park and even more on the park’s history, visit the Rail Park’s helpful FAQ rundown.
When complete, the greenway will run more than three miles and connect 10 different Philadelphia neighborhoods to Fairmount Park and Center City and transform the site of two obsolete Reading Railroad lines into a vibrant public space.
Organized into three sections, the Rail Park in its entirety will consist of the overhead Viaduct, the street-level Cut and the underground Tunnel.
The park is planned to be twice the length and twice the width of New York City’s High Line park, making multi-modal transportation (on bikes, boards, etc.) a possibility. While the time frame for additional phases has yet to be determined, check out the map for a big picture look and stay tuned to news from the Rail Park for announcements about the future.
Check out the early looks of the Rail Park below and make plans now to visit Philly’s new park in the sky.